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Business Officer Magazine

Women Are Not There Yet

Coanchor of the PBS NewsHour and anchor of Conversations With Judy Woodruff, a monthly program for Bloomberg Television, Washington correspondent Judy Woodruff reflects on the strides women have made in politics and the professions.

By Marta Perez Drake

In a recent interview, Business Officer talked with veteran broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff, who will be a keynote speaker at the NACUBO 2013 Annual Meeting (for more of the interview, see "A Conversation With Judy Woodruff" in the May 2013 Business Officer.)

Woodruff and her PBS colleague, Gwen Ifill, made broadcast history in 2012 as the first all-female team to coanchor a network's coverage of a presidential election cycle, covering two national conventions and election night. What does Woodruff think about the progress women are making toward leadership in various fields?

"I think we definitely need more women leaders," she says. "We've certainly seen a number of impressive women emerge in politics in this country. When I first came to Washington in 1977, there were 2 women in the Senate and 18 in the House. And today, there are 77 women in the House, 20 in the Senate. We still haven't had a woman president or a woman vice president, but we've had several women serve as secretary of state. We're still a long way from where we need to be."

Internationally, she continues, "You have seen women heads of state. That's begun to happen. And, I think, in terms of women in business or women in universities, there have been a lot of advancements there—more women who are heading up universities and colleges of all sizes. I also know that on the faculty side there has been some progress."

Do Your Homework

As far as women in key positions in the news media, she says, "There has been progress, but we pretty much stalled out. We hit about a quarter to a third back in the 1970s and '80s, and we're still there. So, women are represented—but 50 percent? No."

What advice does Woodruff have for women who are trying to enter a field that doesn't yet have gender balance?

"First of all, be confident in your own ability," she says. "Don't assume anything because of gender. And, be smart about what the playing field is. By that I mean, who are the players, who are the individuals of influence? Be mindful of that as you work your way through and up.

 "Always do your homework, which I think women probably naturally do anyway. Women tend to be the ones who take their work home with them and do lots and lots of extra research and reading.

 "One of my favorite stories is that whenever I've been asked to go on one of the Sunday shows and I see another woman, often—but not always—the woman is the one who did a great deal of homework and has a stack of papers in front of her. The guys do prepare, but they show up, and they just talk.

 "It's a reminder to me of how much women need to be more confident in what we bring," she concludes, "because we do know a lot, and it's a matter of displaying that confidence. It's also a matter of supporting your colleagues. I think it's really important for women to support other women."

MARTA PEREZ DRAKE is vice president for professional development at NACUBO.

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